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What’s the Big Deal About Eating Breakfast Anyway?

You’ve probably heard it throughout your life—breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But is that really true? Or are you better off skipping it and saving your calories for later in the day?

Julie Lammers, a dietitian with Banner Children’s Specialists Endocrinology Clinic in Mesa, AZ, answers some questions about this misunderstood meal.

Are there benefits to eating breakfast?

Some research has found that people who eat breakfast tend to weigh less and have a lower body mass index (BMI) than breakfast-skippers. They also get better nutrition and feel satiated. And breakfast is important for children. “Some research has shown school-aged kids who eat breakfast have better academic scores and attendance,” Lammers said.

What if I’m not hungry in the morning?

“If you aren’t waking up hungry in the morning, eating a meal may not seem appetizing, and for some people, it may even make them feel sick,” Lammers said. She recommends listening to your hunger and fullness cues to decide when and how much to eat. “You want to limit how often you override those cues. Otherwise, it can make it more difficult to recognize them in the future.”

If you aren’t hungry in the morning and want to begin a breakfast routine, Lammers recommends starting with something small: a glass of water or low-fat milk or milk alternative, a small piece of fruit or a slice of whole-wheat toast, for example. After a few days, see how you feel. “Everybody is different. What works and fits into a healthy lifestyle for one person may not work for another,” she said.

What if I don’t like breakfast foods?

“Breakfast” simply means the first meal of the day. While you might think of cereal, eggs, toast and pancakes as breakfast foods, you don’t have to limit yourself to this typical fare. “I always tell people to think outside the box for breakfast,” Lammers said.

What should I eat for breakfast?

Lammers recommends including at least three food groups, so you get a variety of nutrients. Including complex carbs, proteins and fats will give you energy for your morning and help you feel satisfied until your next meal.

  • If you like breakfast foods, try a half of a whole-wheat bagel topped with peanut butter and banana slices with a glass of low-fat milk
  • If you don’t like breakfast foods, try a grilled chicken wrap in a whole-wheat tortilla with lettuce, tomato, avocado and shredded cheese

I want to try intermittent fasting. Should I skip breakfast?

There are different variations of intermittent fasting, but with it, you typically only eat during a certain timeframe, which in some cases would include skipping breakfast. Lammers said intermittent fasting could lead to health benefits such as weight loss and improved glucose levels, insulin sensitivity and cholesterol levels. However, this does not mean it is the best fit for everyone. As with most types of diets, it can be restrictive, difficult to follow and, for some people, harmful to their health and well-being.

The bottom line

Some research shows that breakfast brings health benefits, and you don’t need to eat typical breakfast foods to see those gains. But if you aren’t hungry in the morning, you don’t necessarily have to start eating breakfast to be healthy—everybody and every body is different. There are many components of your diet and lifestyle that contribute to your overall health and well-being. If you would like to talk to a health care professional about the best eating plan for you and your health, Banner can help.

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